Woods puts angry baggage aside

After two recent meltdowns, he redid "a few things" for the Miami tournament.

Posted: March 22, 2007

MIAMI - The last time we saw Tiger Woods, he was walking off the 18th Sunday at Bay Hill, steam coming out of his ears after a ghastly 76.

Oh, wait, no we didn't see him - or at least hear from him - because the No. 1 golfer in the world was so disgusted with himself that he made a bee-line out of here without passing "Go" and without a word to the media.

All was forgiven yesterday on the eve of the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

Woods had forgiven himself for blowing his second golf tournament in recent weeks (see: missed four-footer, WGC-Match Play Championship), and the media had forgiven Woods for his quick exit at Bay Hill.

"When I look back at the finish, yeah, I hit bad shots," said Woods, who went bogey, double-bogey, triple-bogey on the final three holes for a back nine 43. "But throughout the entire tournament, I kept making silly mistakes, mistakes I don't normally make."

For many golf fans, it's difficult to recall a tournament in which Woods self-destructed the way he did at Bay Hill, especially after shooting a first-round 64 that had given him a share of the lead and sent TV analyst Johnny Miller swooning.

What made last week's meltdown even more memorable was that it followed another very un-Tiger-like loss: to Nick O'Hern, in the third round of the Match Play Championship last month, when he missed a clutch four-footer to put the Aussie away.

Woods gagging a must-make makeable putt? Unheard of. Unthinkable. But it happened.

That's not exactly the wave of success and confidence you'd want coming into another big week. But this is Tiger Woods we're talking about. And yesterday he was not sweating cracks in his veneer.

"Just in the process of changing a few things, working on a few things in my swing, as well as my putting, and just trying to solidify all that come Augusta," he said, explaining the swing miscues at Bay Hill and referring to the Masters at Augusta the first week of April. "That's the point. You don't want to peak too soon. You want to peak on Thursday of Augusta."

That brings us to this tournament, of which Woods is sort of the double-defending champion.

He won last year's final incarnation of the Ford Championship at Doral, and he also won last fall's WGC-American Express Championship outside London the week after the Ryder Cup. This tournament, the WGC-CA Championship, is a hybrid of the two, with more importance, a new date and a new sponsor.

During his usual crack-of-dawn practice round yesterday on Doral's Blue Monster Course, Woods was followed by more than the usual gaggle of fans. For the back nine, his buddy, Roger Federer, who is in town to play in the Sony Ericcson Open, tagged along.

"We had dinner last night on the boat," said Woods, meaning, of course, his $20 million 155-foot yacht, where he is staying the week. "He's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery."

Federer the most dominant athlete? Was Woods being coy?

"What he's done over the last three years - last week he lost, but other than that, he's lost five or six matches for three years," said Woods. "That's pretty good."

At one point yesterday, Woods invited Federer to get out of the crowd and walk inside the ropes, in violation of PGA Tour policy.

"I'm sure I'll get fined for it," said Woods, laughing. "I don't mind paying, because, you know, he was starting to get hassled pretty good, and that's not why he came out here."

Contact staff writer Joe Logan

at 215-854-5604 or jlogan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/joelogan.

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